Idaho Falls teachers fundraise for students’ basic necessities

The Idaho Falls Education Association has quietly helped provide students and families with basic necessities for years. On Wednesday, the association had one of its largest fundraising events in an effort to make its services more widely known to teachers.

Retired and current teachers across Idaho Falls School District 91 honed in their painting skills Wednesday evening. Association members gathered at Mac ‘N Kelly’s Pub & Grill for a painting event fundraiser for the Idaho Education Association’s Children’s Fund, which association members can access to help provide students items such as shoes, winter clothes, food, eyeglasses and dental work.

Idaho Falls Education Association President Julie Nawrocki said members have access to $1,000 of the fund each year to help provide necessities for their students. These necessities are essential to improving a child’s educational experience, she said.

“A lot of us don’t see the homelessness, we don’t see kids that don’t have food or are giving their warm jackets to their little siblings,” Nawrocki said. “This fund just really helps us focus on some of those basic needs that will be able to help these kids with their education. If we can help them feel safe and secure, then they can work on learning.”

Daniel Manson, an Idaho Falls-based artist who runs Art of Hoppiness in eastern Idaho, guided the teachers as they painted one of the business’ gallery paintings “Spooky Night.” Both Manson and Mac ‘N Kelly’s are donating portions of the funds made on Wednesday to the Children’s Fund.

The Idaho Education Association Children’s Fund was created and is supported by various education associations across the state, including the Idaho Falls Education Association.

District 91 Director of Communications and Community Engagement Margaret Wimborne said in an email to the Post Register that the Children’s Fund has benefited 5,275 students since its start with an average monthly award of around $3,700.

Last year the children’s fund helped 250 students in eastern Idaho, said Idaho Education Association East Idaho Organizing Center Director Beage Atwater. Since September, another 60 students have received aid.

“The need is great and teachers recognize those needs quietly,” Atwater said.

Atwater shared with the Post Register pictures of thank you cards from some students who have been assisted by the children’s fund.

“Thank you for the money in my account so I can have food,” one student wrote. “I am really thankful for the help. Now I can have pizza again.”

Morgan Hammon, a fifth-grade teacher at Dora Erickson Elementary School, said she became an association member last year and used the fund three times in 2020.

Hammon helped organize the family paint night and is friends with Manson. She said she was grateful to the community members that have supported the children’s fund including Mac ‘N Kelly’s, Manson, Dutch Brothers and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Idaho. She said the family paint night was a success and tickets sold out.

Another third-grade teacher at Edgemont Elementary, Laura Milton, said she thinks much of the event’s success was due to teachers being excited to have fundraising events in person again after having to postpone other events during the pandemic. Milton was the previous president of Idaho Education Association in 2019 and is an association member

“It’s nice to be fundraising again and we know it’ll go back into our classrooms to help kids,” Milton said.

Nawrocki said the association shows the efforts Idaho teachers make for their students and the compassion they have for children.

“Teachers will give just about anything they can to make sure their kids have the success and opportunities they need,” she said.

One time when Hammon needed to access the fund, she noticed one of her students only had one pair of pants, she said. She helped the student get more pants immediately and the association reimbursed her three days after buying the pants. She said she appreciated how fast the fund is able to provide assistance for both teachers and students.

“It’s definitely the easiest source for me to get immediate things for students that need it. There’s no wait time,” Hammon said.

If local residents are interested in helping the association, Nawrocki said the best way they can help is to help the district with its substitute teacher and paraprofessional staffing shortages. Community members can also donate cash to the Children’s Fund by sending a check to the Idaho Education Association.

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